I Went Into Early Labor & Didn't Even Realize It
After the initial delight of learning I was pregnant with twins faded, I immediately began to worry about the pain of labor. Everything I'd ever seen or read about having a baby showed labor in the same dramatic fashion: Your water would break, usually at a perfectly embarrassing location like in the middle of the toothpaste aisle at Target, and you'd for sure know you were in labor because the contractions would start — long, painful muscle spasms that had women crushing their partner's fingers and stringing four-letter words together in never-before-heard combinations. Each week, as my due date drew closer, I grew more excited to meet the little boys who were growing inside me, but also more nervous about the pain that lay ahead when I went into labor. It turns out, my fears about labor pains were all for naught. Because little more than half way through my pregnancy, I got a huge and very scary surprise. My body went into early labor, and I had no idea that it was happening.
Everything was fine until my 26 week of pregnancy. My first trimester was plagued with some of the typical pregnancy symptoms: morning sickness, a little bit of light spotting, and fatigue that had me passing out for the night before Wheel of Fortune came on. But once I hit my second trimester, I felt much better. I had energy to go on walks and do prenatal yoga, and I could be in the same room as raw chicken without wanting to hurl. My partner and I even went on a babymoon to enjoy our last few months together as a couple. We put my energy to good use by setting up two perfect cribs in a cheerful green room. All that was left to do was wait out the next few months until the boys arrived, or so I thought.
When my partner and I went to my OB for my 26-week checkup, I mentioned that I'd been feeling some intermittent tightening across my abdomen over the last week or so. He assured me this was just Braxton Hicks contractions, my body gearing up in preparation for labor. As I'm on the short side and was carrying twins, my OB didn't expect me to go full term with my sons, but rather thought they'd make their debut around 36 weeks, so by his estimate we still had another 10 weeks of baby-baking to go.
I showed up for my appointment on Monday convinced everything was fine. Other than the fact that Jim and Pam had finally gotten together, the weekend was totally uneventful. I'd even called my boss and told her to expect me that afternoon. I was so confident everything was OK that for the first time ever, I didn't ask my partner to come with me to the appointment. Turns out, that was a really stupid move.
But when the ultrasound technician came in to perform what was usually a routine weekly check, she found bad news. My cervix had shortened drastically in the past week and was starting to thin, and Baby A's placenta was still partially on top of my cervix. My OB thought it'd move over the next 10 weeks, but if I were to go into labor now it'd be a potential danger for both me and the babies. He decided it was best for me to go on bed rest for a few days to see if there were any changes. He told me to come back in four days, on a Monday, and if I wasn't having contractions and everything looked the same, he'd let me go back to my job as a courtroom clerk, since I spent most of the day sitting down. He told me I didn't have to be bedridden all weekend, but that I should "pretend I had the flu" and to call him if I felt any contractions or if my water broke.
I spent the next few days nervous but hopeful that everything would be OK. I passed the time snacking on pretzels and re-watching past seasons of The Office with my cell phone open to a contraction-counter app, just in case. My belly had the occasional tightening that I'd told my doctor about, but other than that I didn't feel a thing all weekend.
"Normally I'd ask you to call your husband and have him come take you, but we don't have much time." Her tone was kind, but I could hear the urgency and panic behind the words. Whatever was happening to me, it was serious.
I showed up for my appointment on Monday convinced everything was fine. Other than the fact that Jim and Pam had finally gotten together, the weekend was totally uneventful. I'd even called my boss and told her to expect me that afternoon. I was so confident everything was OK that for the first time ever, I didn't ask my partner to come with me to the appointment. Turns out, that was a really stupid move. After months of being terrified about the pain of labor, and telling my OB from day one that I was Team Epidural, I learned it's possible to have completely painless contractions. My ultrasound showed that I was already 2 millimeters dilated. Not nearly enough to push out a baby, but still, it was 2 millimeters more dilated than I should've been at only 27 weeks pregnant.
Turns out, the random belly tightening I'd experienced weren't Braxton Hicks, they were actual contractions coming at irregular intervals, I just didn't know it. And that whole dramatic, gushing "OMG, my water broke!" moment that we've all seen on TV a million times? I found out after the fact that only happens to 10 percent of women. Thanks a lot, Hollywood.
I sat there half naked on the exam table as my doctor, nurse, and the ultrasound tech rushed in and out of the room. They were trying to call the hospital across the street to tell them I was coming over to be admitted and to expect me. Through my fog of emotions, the nurse asked if I felt capable enough to drive over. "Normally I'd ask you to call your husband and have him come take you, but we don't have much time." Her tone was kind, but I could hear the urgency and panic behind the words. Whatever was happening to me, it was serious.
I couldn't understand how I'd completely missed my body's cues that it was going into labor. And now, my babies were at risk of being born extremely premature because I hadn't recognized I was in labor. I wasn't even officially a mom yet, and I already felt like I was failing as a parent.
I somehow got myself over to the hospital and allowed the team there to huddle between my legs as they tried to come up with a plan to try and stop my labor from progressing. A million thoughts raced through my head. Everything from the silly — But I don't have my hospital bag with me! — to the serious — If my babies are born now, would they even survive? — but tainting all of my thoughts and feelings was the sense that I had somehow failed.
I am a woman who cried and carried on whenever she got a paper cut. I couldn't handle having my blood drawn or getting a flu shot without having someone come with me to hold my hand. I was sure that I'd feel contractions once I had them, and in fact, I'd been dreading the moment they arrived. I was shocked that I hadn't felt them at all. Furthermore, I'd prided myself on being in tune with my body. I practiced yoga regularly and tried to be mindful and in tune with my body's needs when it came to needing food and rest. I couldn't understand how I'd completely missed my body's cues that it was going into labor. And now, my babies were at risk of being born extremely premature because I hadn't recognized I was in labor. I wasn't even officially a mom yet, and I already felt like I was failing as a parent.
But thanks to the help of my incredible doctors, modern medicine, and a little bit of luck, my babies weren't born that day. In fact, I managed to stay pregnant for another eight weeks before going into labor again when I was 33 weeks pregnant. And by the time my contractions actually started, they hurt like hell. I got the epidural I'd planned on all along, but if I'm being honest there's a part of me that was thankful I got to experience the pain, if only for a little bit. It was nice to know that my body was capable of going into labor the typical way, even if it had fooled me once.